The woman at the bus stop is not my mother

Raina Lauren Fields


               Don’t you wish that person were here now
so you could touch their feet and whisper, “You are my god”?                    
                                    -David Kirby (from “Get Up, Please”)

Even though I recognize the bags stretched
with groceries, library books, and magazines

even though I recognize her burgundy knit hat
and her glove tucked into her dull leather purse

even though I pick up her stray glove and
swat away its stray leaves and lint

even though I quickly search her hands
for pale palms and long fingernails,

the woman at the bus stop is not my mother.

I am afraid that the driver, the other passengers
are all aware of my sorrow showing,

that it spills out uncontrolled until I am reduced
to poor girl, pitiful creature.

I am in Baltimore, in Newark, in Lakewood,
in Santo Domingo, in Paris, in Richmond.

In Santo Domingo, she balances a basket over her pin curls,
on the back of a motorcycle with two other women.

Some days, she walks shoeless and sells flowers to tourists.
Some days, she wipes tables at the resort restaurant.

She wears stockings even in the June sun. She is still a lady.
In Paris, she works in Montmartre, in a hair store lined

with bottles of S-curl and aisles of pink and blond weave,
her impatient accent, Qu’est-ce qu’il te faut? In Baltimore,

I avoid her gaze through thick-rimmed glasses, but in Philadelphia,
I must try not to kneel at her feet and beg for forgiveness.

I will not hold her glove hostage and ask Why?
She is not my god, this woman, this stranger.